Research for research's sake? A critical reflections on the unintended consequences of academic entrepreneurship

Bernd Wurth, Susan Howick, Niall MacKenzie

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Much has been written about the crucial role that universities play during the transformation from a knowledge society to an entrepreneurial society as well as their importance for economic development. Numerous frameworks have been developed and studies conducted to assess the impact of universities. However, universities themselves underwent changes and their entrepreneurial activities have always been accompanied by scepticism and concerns. Some of them, such as the concern that there will be a shift from basic to more applied research, have, at least partially, been addressed. Our understanding of the dynamic behaviour is, nonetheless, still limited. This paper will enhance this discussion by applying systems thinking and the development of system archetypes at different levels of the university, namely for the top management, the department level and for individual academics. This systems perspective enables the identification of (unintended) consequences caused by feedback loops and the inclusion of soft factors such as the academic culture. Based on the insights provided from systems thinking, prescrip-tive actions are recommended. These action steps will support the decision-making at different levels within universities to avoid unintended consequences. Awareness of the potential unintended conse-quences is crucial for university management as well as TTO managers and even policy makers on the regional and national level. Considering these potential effects supports crafting more effective strategies and policies towards a sustainable balance between entrepreneurial activities and universities’ contribu-tion to society and economic development as well as unbiased research conducted at universities for the sake of the truth. Suggestions for further research are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 24 Jun 2015
EventUniversity-Industry Interaction Conference 2015 - DBB Forum, Berlin, Germany
Duration: 24 Jun 201526 Jun 2015


ConferenceUniversity-Industry Interaction Conference 2015
Internet address


  • entrepreneurship
  • economic development
  • system archetypes
  • academic culture


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